I was part of a team today.
This afternoon I went for my regular swim at the local park district pool. Loaded down with Thanksgiving food, it was harder than usual. Making my usual number of laps was hard in a pool crowded with more than the usual number of swimmers.
I made a turn after completing a lap, heading back behind a woman I’d never seen before in the pool. She was fast, and wearing a streamlined suit, the mark of an expert swimmer.
But as I came up on the halfway point of the lane, I saw her floating underwater, on her back with her arms extended ahead of her, reaching towards the deep end. It was strange, and I thought maybe it was some expert trance I’d never seen before.
I swam over her, saw that she was motionless. I reached for her arm and pulled it. She didn’t move so I pulled her up, and pushed her body into the air, holding her from behind. She gasped for air, and suddenly, almost every swimmer in the pool headed for us. Two lifeguards yelled, diving into the pool. One was next to me in seconds, maneuvering her into an expert carry. Another lifeguard at the shallow end set up a board, and two lifeguards in the pool carried her out.
“Everyone out of the pool, please!” yelled one lifeguard. “Please go to the locker rooms!”
Another was on the phone, calling 911. “Is she conscious?”
“Yes!” shouted back another.
We lap swimmers streamed to the edge, as a group gathered around the half-drowned woman.
“What happened?” a man who just finished a lap asked me.
Now I had to think. What had happened? “I think she had a seizure. She wasn’t moving under the water, so I pulled her up,” I said.
“Ah,” said the man.
“Move to the locker rooms, please,” reminded a lifeguard. Three other lifeguards surrounded the woman, who seemed to be coughing, breathing. I couldn’t see her.
Picked up my towel, walked to the locker room in shock. Showered. Changed. Other men talked about the incident briefly, then circled around a scale weighing themselves, discussing weight loss.
I was shaken. Walked around to the pool door to the street. An ambulance had arrived, the woman was now on a gurney. Paramedics wheeled her out. Eyes open, awake, looking pale. Staring into space as she wheeled past me.
I stood there. Wondering what to do.
“Can I help you?” one of the lifeguards asked.
“I pulled her up.”
“Oh yeah? Hold on,” he grabbed a clipboard with a sheet titled, Incident Report.
“Put your name and contact information here. They probably won’t call you, but you know.”
I filled it out. He took the clipboard. Closed the door.
So, I walked home and thought: Today, I was part of a team. I saw someone in need and helped her. Then passed her to another person who helped, who passed her to someone else who helped.
That’s what we do. We help when we can, and we make a team.
I hope she comes back to the pool soon. I’d like to learn her name.